Bosasa taint means Ramaphosa's anti-corruption drive could die at home
President Cyril Ramaphosa's failure to deal decisively with allegations against his son over a payment from corruption-accused facilities management company Bosasa will come back to haunt him.
To add fuel to the fire Andile Ramaphosa hours later, in direct contradiction of his father, distanced himself from the payment and claimed to have no knowledge thereof.
It is a scandal that will no doubt quickly grow to uBaba kaDuduzane proportions.
To understand why we should be concerned over an apparent business deal between a well established company and another businessman, we first need to understand Bosasa.
Bosasa, a company with strong links to the ANC's upper echelons, has for years played a dirty game of bribes for tenders. The corruptors and the corrupted all maintain their innocence but the evidence that has been stacked up against them since 2008 tells a different story.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Hawks have dragged their feet for years, blaming each other for the delay. News24 revealed last month that forensic reports – outstanding for nearly eight years – were now finalised.
But while law enforcement was slow on the take, the media (particularly News24 editor Adriaan Basson) was exposing Bosasa's leadership and public officials for their dodgy deals. Basson's first expose was published a decade ago in the Mail and Guardian.
When the president got up on Tuesday morning the last thing he expected was for DA leader Mmusi Maimane to ambush him with a signed affidavit claiming that R500 000 was paid, via Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson's personal account and a shelf company, to an attorney's trust account for Andile Ramaphosa's benefit.
For months an unsigned version was doing the rounds, the explosive allegations therein all but useless. Anyone with access to a computer could write any old rubbish and leak it to the media, after all.
But a signed and commissioned version makes the exercise far more serious. And therein lies Ramaphosa's conundrum.
The name Bosasa is not new to any South African who reads the newspapers and in response to Maimane's issue with the payment, Ramaphosa made a startling concession. I have known about the matter for some time, he said.
This is a clear indication that Ramaphosa only expected to deal with the matter if and when it became public knowledge.
He did not tell Maimane that because of the serious allegations against the role players at Bosasa he decided to refer the matter to the police or launch any sort of independent investigation into why the payment landed in an attorney's trust instead of with Ramaphosa Jr's business account.
Or, for that matter, on Andile Ramaphosa's version, his son had no knowledge of this particular payment (over and above his work for Bosasa) and it was a case of someone's name being used in vain.
He did not even instruct his son to distance himself from Bosasa, which amid recent exposes by News24 of Bosasa's largesse involving Cabinet ministers, was a dangerous and potentially disastrous oversight – by both Ramaphosa Sr and Jr.
Attorney's trust accounts are notoriously abused by money launderers and the involvement of such in any transaction immediately raises the suspicion of financial investigators and journalists alike.
It's the old "what are you trying to hide" game.
Instead President Ramaphosa claims he confronted his son and was satisfied with his explanations that there was nothing illegal or unlawful about the transaction.
Work has already begun to determine who the trust account in question belongs to which will be a crucial factor in determining whether this payment thrust so spectacularly into the spotlight by the DA is in fact linked to Andile Ramaphosa, or if it is just another case of a politically connected figure's name being used to boost egos in the boardrooms of Bosasa's Krugersdorp head office.
As far as the details are concerned, there is no definitive evidence in the affidavit that proves Ramaphosa Jr got the money. Instead it speaks of an instruction from Watson to move R3m out of his personal bank account to the FNB business account of Miotto Trading and Consulting, a company with strong links to Bosasa.
From there, the R3m is divvied up between the R500 000 payment to the trust account allegedly linked with Ramaphosa and R2.5m for the purchase of a home for another Bosasa employee who allegedly enjoys a close relationship with Watson.
Ramaphosa Jr is convinced that a full investigation will show the funds did not end up with him.
Ramaphosa Sr meanwhile is determined to restore investor confidence as his efforts to save the ailing economy ramp up. One of his biggest talking points is a strong anti-corruption drive which he believes will give foreign and local investors a reason to dig into their pockets.
But the Ramaphosa name is now inextricably linked to Bosasa and the immediate response to questions over the issue will define how it is portrayed for the rest of his tenure as president.
Ramaphosa vowed that if there is anything untoward relating to this transaction he would personally escort his son to the police station.
This is a promise Ramaphosa may have to fulfil if he hopes to keep himself and his family out of the glaring scrutiny and publicity only a corruption scandal can dish up.
Some will say that charity begins at home. But for the Ramaphosa family, the anti-corruption drive has to start at home.